College revises JA grant

Next year, the College will continue its policy of covering, via a grant, the academic-year student income contribution for students receiving financial aid who serve as junior advisors (JAs). However, administrators will make several changes to the way in which this grant is disbursed, specifically with regards to JAs seeking out student employment on campus. 

Starting with the JAs to the class of 2020, JAs who receive financial aid from the College received a grant that covered the academic-year student income contribution that is expected from students as part of typical financial aid packages. According to the Office of Financial Aid’s website, the current contribution from on-campus, school-year employment is $2700 for returning students. This contribution is separate from the summer earnings requirement of $1950.

The contribution has been covered in the form of additional grant aid, rather than a loan or other form of student or family contribution. “This grant, like all Williams grants, is fund[ed] by the endowments supporting financial aid,” Director of Financial Aid Paul Boyer ’77 said.

The change was intended to both encourage students receiving financial aid to apply to be JAs and to allow JAs to focus on their role rather than having to also devote time to on-campus employment. “This change was spear-headed by Dean [of the College Sarah] Bolton, prior to her leaving Williams, to encourage financial aid students to apply to be JAs, knowing that to be the best JA, the hours required to hold a campus job and earn the expected contribution detracted from time available to undertake JA responsibilities,” Boyer said.

“Over the past few years, there was some concern that students on financial aid who had to engage in work study as part of their school year student contribution to their aid package might feel less able to take on the role of JA,” Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom said, “because it would be difficult for them to be available to first-year students and provide all of the required work hours necessary to meet their financial aid obligations. As an institution, we want to be sure that aided students who are interest[ed] in becoming JAs do not face barriers to serving in that role. It is crucial that all students who have the interest and aptitude be able to pursue the JA option.”

This year, however, JAs primarily brought up issues to the Dean’s Office regarding how the grant affects allowed opportunities for on-campus employment. JAs receiving this grant, similar to recipients of other scholarships that cover the student income contribution such as the Tyng Scholarship, Mellon-Mays or Allison Davis Undergraduate Research Fellowship, were not allowed to hold any on-campus employment without special permission. For JAs, this dispensation would be required to come from the Dean of the College. “The current system provided all JAs on financial aid with the entire grant,” Sandstrom said. “As a result they were expected not to work. We realized, however, that there are some JAs on financial aid who want to work (despite the grant) because certain jobs play a key role in their academic or personal growth (e.g., serving as a TA or RA). This year I made exceptions for students who were interested in pursuing a very limited amount of paid work in addition to the grant, but the process was cumbersome.”

Given that most JAs receiving financial aid were not able to hold campus employment, they also were not able to earn money for everyday expenses; the entirety of the grant went towards covering the student on-campus earnings contribution. “Next year’s JA grant program will allow more flexibility for students to balance paid work with the grant if they so choose (e.g., they can work one semester and receive the grant in the other semester), and will disperse the grant in a way that provides students with cash for their personal expenses,” Sandstrom said.

Administrators hope that these changes will allow JAs receiving financial aid to both pursue meaningful employment and earn money for personal expenses while allowing them to focus on the responsibilities of being a JA.